NEW YORK (PIX11)—Hughes Akassy told women he was a journalist, but prosecutors say that in reality he was an author of fiction -- about who he was. That fiction, they say, allowed him to get so close to women that he was able to sexually assault one, and violently abuse at least four others.
Akassy, 43, is in court embattled in a 24-count indictment, including the two most serious counts of rape and a criminal sex act. The Ivory Coast immigrant also faces 22 counts of aggravated stalking and harassment.
Prosecutors say Akassy's method for winning over women he'd never met before, then sexually abusing and stalking them was simple -- the charming, self-confident man was living a double life. They say it was remarkably easy for Akassy to use his naturally persuasive skills to convince women that he was a French-West African journalist in the U.S. covering presidential politics. Once he got them to believe him, investigators say, Akassy could get into women's personal lives.
"It depends if the guy is pretty or not," Austrian tourist Elisabeth Fennes told PIX11 News about whether or not she would get to know a man who randomly struck up a conversation with her. Fennes was in the same location where one of the women who testified against Akassy was when he first encountered her: Central Park.
"If you see a guy you can see how his clothes look," Fennes said. "I think it's just a spontaneous decision."
That sort of decision led one woman to leave the park and spend time with Akassy until, she told investigators, he violently forced her to perform a sex act on him in the stairwell of her building. It was a pattern he would continue, according to prosecutors.
They say he would meet women in very public places, then work his way in to their private lives. One woman who testified against Akassy, Melissa Oaks, 26, told investigators that Akassy walked up and met her in front of an Upper West Side Food Emporium near her home.
Oaks told prosecutors that Akassy ended up stalking her after he got her phone number. He would send her obscene texts and emails. PIX11 News encountered Oaks as she left her apartment to walk her dogs. She had no comment, but had told investigators that when she would take her dogs for a walk in the past, Akassy would shout obscenities at her, following her down streets near her apartment.
It got to that point with Oaks and at least four other women, according to the district attorney, by Akassy convincing the women that he was a jet-setting international journalist. He had a fake press card, and a bogus journalism website that described him as being able to "draw a fascinating interview from a stone." As it turned out, Akassy stole that review from the website of an actual journalist -- ace interviewer Charlie Rose.
Another woman Akassy met at yet another very public place, Time Warner Center. The woman, a Russian tourist, told investigators that he was so believable that he eventually got her to go with him to Riverside Park for a picnic. Instead, prosecutors say, Akassy got the woman into a remote stretch of the park and he violated her so violently, she suffered multiple cuts and bruises.
That alleged rape led to the most serious of the two dozen charges against the charming sex crime suspect. His DNA, investigators say, was found in semen left on the Russian woman's body.
So far this week, the women who have accused Akassy have testified against him in court. He is expected to take the stand in his own defense on Thursday.
That was after he sexually assaulted his date in the park, according to investigators -- the most serious of his alleged crimes.
DNA collected from the rape kit that nurses administered at the hospital... matched Hughes Akassy.